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Wesson board rejects RR crossing plan

WESSON — Residents and aldermen made it clear to the mayorTuesday night that they prefer the convenience of having sixrailroad crossing in their town, protected or unprotected, ratherthan four protected crossings.

During the town hearing at the board meeting, residents andboard members expressed their opposition to the Mayor Bill Tigner’sproposal from the railroad company and Mississippi Department ofTransportation.

The proposal was to close two crossings in the town, and movethe cross guards from the protected crossing at Collier Street tothe unprotected Main Street crossing.

The crossgaurds would also be upgraded at the Main Street andSpring Street crossings, plus $60,000 would be appropriated to thetown for the closure of crossings at Collier Street and SeventhStreet, the site of two accidents since May.

“We really don’t know how that would affect our traffic flow,”Ward Two Alderman Hollis Cowen Jr. stated.

Others agreed, saying the closures would clog roads when schoolwas letting out each day and cause residents to drive further toreach their destinations.

Tigner countered that point by saying the most it could add todriving time was one minute and 45 seconds, according tocalculations he made while driving around the crossings earlier inthe week.

He added that he could tell time was an important issue forresidents when he stopped at the Seventh Street unprotectedcrossing to wait for an oncoming train he could see coming down thetracks.

“A ‘good citizen’ in a big pickup truck came up behind me andblew the horn,” Tigner said, adding that the citizen also told himto go ahead and cross in front of the oncoming train.

Ward Three Alderwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Lura Greer said she hadto “take her phone off the hook” because of the number of phonecalls she received about the inconvenience the closed crossingswould bring to the town.

She specifically mentioned how the closure of the Seventh Streetcrossing would hinder the cut-through road to Highway 51, possiblyadding 60 seconds to driving time.

“My constituents called and requested I be against the closings.That’s why I voted that way,” she said about the proposal thatboard members unanimously rejected.

Ward One Alderman Robert Derrick pointed out to fellow boardmembers and residents that the town had six crossing within one anda half miles, so it would not hinder drivers that much.

“I think closing two streets and having $60,000 will be verybeneficial to the town,” he said.

Cowen said the money would probably not be accounted for in twoyears, yet the streets would be closed forever.

Resident Will Turnbo told board members the closure of CollierStreet and Seventh Street crossings could “kill someone” because itwould take longer for the fire trucks to get to theirdestination.

The board asked assistant fire chief Randle Drane what crossingswere used most. He said those two were not used very often.

Some residents also argued that emergency vehicles would be lesslikely to get around a stopped train if the two crossings whereclosed, to which Tigner pointed out the availability of twooverhead bridges in the area.

After much discussion, Tigner asked board members to vote on theproposal and silence filled the air at town hall.

Then he asked them to consider voting to close at least onecrossing, creating another quiet moment. Derrick was the only votein support of a request to close one crossing.

“Well, we’ve got two crossings that we know are dangerous and weare bypassing two proposals to make our crossings safe,” Tignertold board members. “We’re walking away from this meeting with norecourse.”

Residents and board members suggested coming up with a thirdproposal, such as asking railroad officials to just put crossguardsup at the unprotected crossings.

“It’s a train problem. Let the train people take responsibilityfor what they bring to our town,” Cowen said.

Everyone agreed that the crossings were dangerous and somethingmore should be done to protect lives at the Main Street and SeventhStreet crossings.

“The one on Seventh Street I know needs to be closed. It is ablind spot there,” said resident Bobbie Posey, “and I sat there (atthe Main Street crossing) and watched the other day when the lightswas blinking and the horn was blowing and two kids crossed thosetracks (at Main Street).”

Tigner said he would ask railroad officials for crossing guards,but did not believe he would be successful in the request thatrailroad officials have denied many towns.

“We can’t make them put cross guards up,” Tigner said, endingthe discussion with much disappointment.